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Pittsburgh fans showed up in Charlotte, like they do around the league.

If the Panthers had a theme last season and in the victories against Tampa Bay and Detroit this season, it’s this: Play smart, force turnovers, don’t turn the ball over and be good when you have to be. The Sunday night loss at home, on national TV, to Pittsburgh, was more than uncharacteristic. It was a shock.

I’ve always liked Pittsburgh. I brought my older son to a Carolina Panthers’ game there and he sat with Steelers fans he didn't know and as long as he didn’t cheer too loudly for the visitors, they took care of him.

Tom Sorensen: Now that the Greg Hardy issue has been resolved, at least temporarily, we can try something new – football.

Tom Sorensen: Carolina Panther coach Ron Rivera was talking and he was emotional and the longer he talked the more emotional he became. Of course, the subject was Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy.

I would like to have heard Sunday from general manager Dave Gettleman and, perhaps, owner Jerry Richardson. Neither man has addressed the issue to deactivate Hardy.

To say No. 97 carried the Carolina Panthers Sunday would be a slight exaggeration. But Mario Addison did spend the fourth quarter introducing himself to Carolina fans and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Although it’s unclear what happened between Friday and Sunday to change the Carolina Panthers’ stance on defensive end Greg Hardy, but it’s safe to assume team owner Jerry Richardson was prominently involved.

Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports have four drivers in NASCAR’s Chase, the season-ending playoffs for the Sprint Cup title, and that’s cause for celebration. But the real party could come at Homestead, in the season finale.

Upset of the Week: Detroit Lions (+3) 23, CAROLINA PANTHERS 20: If the teams revert to 2013 form, this is a foolish pick. After losing their opener at home last season, the Panthers won seven straight. The Lions, meanwhile, lost their past three on the road.

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Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.